Djibouti’s satellite launch aims to advance climate research

Djibouti has launched its first satellite, Djibouti-1A, to track environmental changes across the country which, in turn, could also help to advance climate research and support evidence-based policy-making in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to climate change.

Launched on 11 November, Djibouti-1A was developed through a joint capacity-building programme between the country’s Ministry of Higher Education and Research and its technical partner, the Centre Spatial Universitaire de Montpellier (CSUM) in France.

The Djibouti-IA is one of the initiatives of the Djiboutien space programme. Its work focuses on technology transfer related to nanosatellites, environmental protection and economic development. It also aims to launch another nanosatellite, Djibouti-1B, and send students abroad for training.

According to the Climate Change Knowledge Portal of the World Bank, Djibouti, which is located in the Horn of Africa and bordered by the Red Sea, is facing water scarcity due to low levels of precipitation, higher temperatures, increased aridity, and rising sea levels. These challenges are expected to continue to affect the country, making its population of one million highly vulnerable to climate change.

Thus, the Djibouti-1A will help the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche de Djibouti to track environmental changes across the country through collecting data from climatological, rainfall and limnimetric stations spread across the Djiboutian territory.

Journey of innovation

Explaining how Djiboutian engineers and technicians have worked alongside their counterparts in France, Nabil Mohamed Ahmed, the Djibouti minister of higher education and research, said students were selected to ensure the success of the project … “because the objective was to make the satellite, not to buy it, and have it manufactured by our students to make this technological leap and [to] say … Djibouti is capable of manufacturing a satellite, launching it, collecting results for the climate but also getting started in development perspectives”.

“The result is that 10 technicians and engineers were trained. This dedicated team collaborated with various companies involved in all aspects of satellite design, manufacturing, and launch, contributing to the enhancement of software capabilities,” he was quoted as saying.

Advancing climate change research

XN Iraki, an associate professor of data science, innovation and technology management at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, told University World News that the Djibouti-1A could help in advancing climate change research at national and regional level as it will provide invaluable information and real-time data that could bridge the knowledge gap about climate change impact, in particular in the Horn of Africa region.

The October 2022 study, ‘An overview of climate change adaptation and mitigation research in Africa’, called upon African countries to improve their future research ability on climate change mitigation and prioritise assessing climate change risks and measures because researchers belonging to institutes based in Africa published only 38.7%, while those from the West published 49% with 11% of the 54 African countries having not published anything on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Atta-ur-Rahman, a UNESCO science prize laureate and former coordinator general of the Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation of the 57-country Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which includes Djibouti, told University World News Djibouti’s efforts to promote indigenous satellite development “provides a unique example for African higher education institutions to actively engage in satellite-related research, leading to advancements in areas such as space science, atmospheric studies, and remote sensing as well as effectively address region-specific challenges such as climate change, drought and natural resource management”.

“Collaborations between Djibouti academia, research institutions, and the space industry also provide an ideal model for Africa on how to foster a culture of innovation and scientific inquiry, creating a skilled workforce capable of contributing to satellite development and related technologies,” said Atta-ur-Rahman, who is also the former federal minister of science and technology of Pakistan.

“Djibouti has set a unique example for promoting African indigenous satellite development which will enable African nations to design and deploy satellites tailored to their specific needs for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Atta-ur-Rahman concluded.

This view is supported by a report, Satellite Data’s Role in Supporting Sustainable Development Goals.